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Brieno v. Paccar, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

August 2, 2018

JASMINE BRIENO, as personal representative of the Estate of Eduardo Rodriguez Melendez, Jr., Plaintiff,
PACCAR, INC., KIMBLE MANUFACTURING COMPANY, a division of Hines Specialty Vehicle Group, JACKIE D. SIMPSON Defendants.


         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Paccar, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction (Doc. 11) and Defendant Kimble Mixer Company d/b/a Hines Specialty Vehicle Group's (“KMC”) Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction (Doc. 25). In both Motions, Defendants contend that the present suit should be dismissed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). For the reasons discussed below, the Court concludes that it may exercise general personal jurisdiction over Defendant Paccar and accordingly denies its Motion. Finding no basis to exercise personal jurisdiction over Defendant KMC, however, the Court grants its Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of a motor vehicle accident that occurred in Lincoln County, New Mexico on July 29, 2014. Plaintiff's Complaint, Doc. 1-1 at 9. Plaintiff alleges that a camper trailer attached to Defendant Simpson's vehicle separated and traveled into the path of decedent Eduardo Melendez's cement truck. Doc. 1-1 at 10. Plaintiff alleges that Decedent Melendez crashed his cement truck when he swerved to avoid the camper trailer. Doc. 1-1 at 10. Plaintiff alleges that the cement truck tipped onto its side and slid approximately 129 feet. Doc. 1-1 at 10. Plaintiff alleges that this caused the cement mixer drum to detach from the bed of the truck, pin Decedent Melendez in the wreckage, and ultimately resulted in his death. Doc. 1-1 at 10.

         Defendant Paccar is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Washington. Doc. 11-1 at 2. Defendant KMC is a Michigan Corporation with its principal place of business in Ohio. Doc. 1 at 2. The cement truck driven by the decedent was composed of parts originating from both Defendants. The cab and chassis was manufactured and assembled by Kenworth Truck Company, an unincorporated division of Defendant Paccar, in Ohio. Doc. 11-1. Kenworth Truck Company then sold the cab and chassis to an independent dealer, MHC Kenworth - Denver. Doc. 11-1. Kimble Mixing Company[1] added the cement mixer components to the cab and chassis. Doc. 25-1. MHC Kenworth - Denver took delivery of the completed vehicle and transported it Colorado. Doc. 25-1. The vehicle was purchased by decedent's employer, Mesa Verde Enterprises, Inc., a New Mexico company, from Defendant KMC in March 2006. Doc. 25-1. At the time of purchase the mixer components were owned by KMC, while MHC Kenworth - Denver held title to cab and chassis. Doc. 25-1. In order to complete the sale, MHC Kenworth - Denver transferred title to Defendant KMC, who then transferred title to Mesa Verde Enterprises. Doc. 25-1. The title transfer occurred in Colorado. Doc. 25-1. In March 2006, MHC Kenworth - Denver delivered the vehicle to Mesa Verde in New Mexico. Doc. 25-1.

         Plaintiff initially filed suit against Defendants in New Mexico state court. Doc. 1-1. Defendants removed the case to this Court on August 23, 2017. Doc. 1. Defendant Paccar filed its Motion to Dismiss on August 30, 2017. Doc. 11. Shortly thereafter, Defendant KMC filed its Motion to Dismiss on September 26, 2017. Doc. 25. In response to the Motions, Plaintiff requested that she be allowed to engage in discovery directed toward the jurisdictional issues. See Docs. 24, 33. On February 8, 2018, the Court entered an Order permitting limited jurisdictional discovery and requesting supplemental briefing. Doc. 40. Plaintiff filed her supplemental brief on April 6, 2018. Doc. 56. Defendants Paccar and KMC submitted their supplemental briefs on April 20, 2018. Docs. 61, 62. Because the facts underlying the jurisdictional issues are, in large part, unique to each Defendant, the Court will reserve specific discussion of those facts for its analysis.

         II. ANALYSIS

         “Federal courts sitting in diversity have personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendants to the extent permitted by the law of the forum.” Benally v. Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, 858 F.2d 618, 621 (10th Cir. 1988). The plaintiff has the burden of establishing that personal jurisdiction exists. Wenz v. Memery Crystal, 55 F.3d 1503, 1505 (10th Cir. 1995). “When the evidence presented on the motion to dismiss consists of affidavits and other written materials the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing.” Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc. v. Heliqwest International, Ltd., 385 F.3d 1291, 1295 (10th Cir. 2004). The plaintiff must show two things: “first, that the exercise of jurisdiction is sanctioned by the state's long-arm statute; and second, that it comports with the due process requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Marcus Food Co. v. DiPanfilo, 671 F.3d 1159, 1166 (10th Cir. 2011). New Mexico's long-arm “statute extends the jurisdictional reach of New Mexico courts as far as constitutionally permissible.” Tercero v. Roman Catholic Diocese, 2002-NMSC-018, ¶ 6, 48 P.3d 50. Thus, the Court “need not conduct a statutory analysis apart from the due process analysis.” Marcus Food Co., 671 F.3d at 1166 (internal quotation marks omitted).

         “The Due Process Clause permits the exercise of personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant ‘so long as there exist minimum contacts between the defendant and the forum State.'” Intercon, Inc. v. Bell Atlantic Internet Solutions, Inc., 205 F.3d 1244, 1247 (10th Cir. 2000) (citing World-Wide Volkswagon Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 291 (1980)). “The ‘minimum contacts' standard may be met in two ways;” namely, by establishing general or specific jurisdiction. Id. “General jurisdiction is based on an out-of-state defendant's continuous and systemic contacts with the forum state…and does not require that the claim be related to those contacts.” Dudnikov v. Chalk & Vermilion Fine Arts, Inc., 514 F.3d 1063, 1078 (10th Cir. 2008) (internal citation omitted). “Specific jurisdiction, on the other hand, is premised on something of a quid pro quo: in exchange for ‘benefitting' from some purposive conduct directed at the forum state, a party is deemed to consent to the exercise of jurisdiction for claims related to those contacts.” Id.

         Because Plaintiff argues separate bases to support the exercise of jurisdiction over Defendants Paccar and KMC, the Court will address these Defendants in turn.

         A. Defendant Paccar

         Plaintiff argues that the Court may exercise either general or specific jurisdiction over Defendant Paccar. As for general jurisdiction, Plaintiff contends that Defendant Paccar consented to general jurisdiction by registering an agent for service of process in New Mexico.[2]In regard to specific jurisdiction, Plaintiff argues that Defendant Paccar has sufficient contacts with New Mexico and that the exercise of personal jurisdiction is fair and reasonable. For the reasons explained below, the Court agrees with Plaintiff's first contention and accordingly concludes that the exercise of personal jurisdiction over Defendant Paccar is proper.

         Plaintiff's argument is based on a line of authority holding that, in certain circumstances, a foreign corporation may be deemed to have consented to a state's exercise of personal jurisdiction over it if it registers to do business in the state and designates an agent for service of process. See Pennsylvania Fire Ins. Co. of Philadelphia v. Gold Issue Mining & Milling Co., 243 U.S. 93, 96 (1917); Robert Mitchell Furniture Co. v. Selden Breck Constr. Co., 257 U.S. 213, 214-16 (1921). Whether a foreign corporation's registration to do business or designate an agent constitutes consent is determined by reference to the state statute governing such issues or, in some instances, case law construing those statutes. See Robert Mitchell Furniture, 257 U.S. at 216 (“Unless the state law either expressly or by local construction gives to the appointment a larger scope, we should not construe it to extend to suits in respect of business transacted by the foreign corporation elsewhere…”).

         The Tenth Circuit has historically followed this practice. In Budde v. Kentron Hawaii, Ltd., the Tenth Circuit held that under Colorado law, a foreign corporation's registration to do business in Colorado constituted consent to general personal jurisdiction. 565 F.2d 1145 (10th Cir. 1977). In so concluding, the court distinguished its decision in Kentron Hawaii with an earlier case filed by the same plaintiff in federal district court in New Mexico in which the court held that it did not have general personal jurisdiction. Id. at 1148 (citing Budde v. Ling-Temco-Vought, Inc., 511 F.2d 1033, 1036 (10th Cir. 1975)). The Tenth Circuit clarified that in its earlier decision neither New Mexico statutory law nor case law provided authority for the exercise of general personal jurisdiction. See Id. at 1148 (stating that “the result reached in the appeal from the judgment of dismissal by the federal district court in New Mexico was dictated by a lack of New Mexico law on the particular matter.”). Because Colorado law did provide such authority, the court in Kentron Hawaii determined that the exercise of general personal jurisdiction over the foreign corporation was proper. Id. (“We believe Colorado Law exists which dictates a result different from the one reached by us in the New Mexico case.”).

         Subsequent to the Tenth Circuit's decisions in the Budde cases, the New Mexico Court of Appeals issued its decision in Werner v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 1993-NMCA-112, 861 P.2d 270. In Werner, the court reviewed the New Mexico Business Corporation Act, §§ 53-17-1 et seq., and determined that the legislature intended Section 53-17-11 to grant authority for state courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over foreign corporations authorized to transact business in New Mexico. 1993-NMCA-112, ¶ 11. In so holding, the court read Section 53-17-11 in conjunction with Section 53-17-2 which provides that a foreign corporation registered to do business in New Mexico “is subject to the same duties, restrictions, penalties and liabilities now or hereafter imposed upon a domestic corporation of like character.” The court accordingly concluded that because the “legislative intent expressed in Section 53-17-2 appears ...

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